Mac McClung probably isn’t the headliner many were expecting for the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest.
But dunking is what the 6-foot-2 guard is best known for, having earned internet fame and a huge following in high school through viral videos of his slams. That legacy led to an invite to the dunk contest, making the Delaware Blue Coat the first G-Leaguer to participate.
And he didn’t disappoint in Salt Lake City. McClung won the dunk contest in emphatic fashion, with three out of his four dunks scoring perfect 50s, including a 540-degree final jam that secured the title. The near-perfect performance is a chance for McClung, who signed a two-way deal with the 76ers on Tuesday, to capitalize on the moment and turn it into a bigger marketing opportunity.
With McClung’s help, All-Star Saturday night generated a record 520 million video views within the first 12 hours, according to the NBA.
The NBA’s All-Star dunk contest has proved to be a launching pad for previous winners, such as Blake Griffin, who did a jaw-dropping dunk over a Kia Optima, and Dwight Howard, who donned a red cape for his Superman slam. This year, McClung, who has gotten a vote of confidence from Shaquille O’Neal, has a chance to similarly boost his profile.
“A lot of my best friends call every night and [say] ‘you should do this, you should do that’,” McClung said in an interview with Stadium. “It’s been really fun discussing it all. I really just want to have fun with it and be creative. I’ve put in the time to try to create and practice new dunks. I want to make the most of it.”
McClung, 24, first hit the scene as a bouncy high-school star out of Gate City, Va., known for his rim-rattling dunks and filthy crossover moves. From his epic 41-point district championship night to dropping 44 another night after engaging in sideline banter with an opposing coach, McClung’s clips and highlight reels become folklore in hoop circles. On YouTube, McClung has more than a dozen videos that have more than one million views per video. This notoriety has helped him snag more than 820,000 followers on Instagram. He remains unique.
In 2018, McClung won the Ballislife All-American Slam Dunk contest, which further increased his popularity among the dunk-loving populous. The highlights of that event have more than 3.5 million views on YouTube.
“He has a lot of heart,” Ballislife CEO Matt Rodriguez said in an interview. “[Mac] doesn’t care about his size and plays very hard. He’s just a confident player.”
Despite being one of the best high school players in Virginia—McClung broke the state’s single-season scoring record, previously held by Allen Iverson—the undersized three-star guard wasn’t heavily recruited by colleges. McClung played at Georgetown for two years—also like Iverson— before transferring to Texas Tech after some encouragement from former Red Raiders star Patrick Mahomes, among others.
Since going unpicked in 2021 draft, McClung has bounced around between three different G League teams in less than two seasons. Living out of a suitcase hasn’t stopped him from building on his brand. McClung’s social posts range from motivational to fitness focused, all the while sprinkling in action photos and videos from the opening years of his pro career, with one captioned: ‘stay the course.’
That mantra rings true both on and off the court.
Earlier this week, he announced a new shoe deal with Puma, joining a roster that includes Charlotte Hornets star LaMelo Ball and Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton. McClung, who has endorsements with luxury jewelry brand Jaxxson, ReAthlete and Bearbottom Clothing, also launched his own exercise program back in 2021, which helps athletes improve their explosiveness and vertical leap.
“He’s part of this emerging class of hybrid athlete creators,” Sebastian Arriagada, co-founder and social media strategist at Content Capital Group, said. “They’re only going to become more relevant and people like him are leading the way.”
The potential promotion to the 76ers roster allows him another chance to carve out a backup guard role and maybe, just maybe, secure a standard contract. More floor time in the NBA would only help the basketball influencer snag more marketing opportunities and earn extra cash for other ventures.
In the meantime, Mac McClung is living in the moment. He isn’t the strongest or the fastest to ever compete in the dunk contest. But he knows how to entertain when the stage is presented to him.
He’s back in the spotlight.